BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium will strengthen its police force in the west of the country to preempt the closure of a migrant camp in France’s Calais, which authorities believe could lead to a surge in migrants seeking to use Belgian ports to reach Britain.
Belgium will start to deploy the additional police Saturday and will reach an extra 120 officers by Monday, the provincial governor of West Flanders told Reuters.
“There could always be border checks, but the operational preference is to work with mobile units throughout the region,” Governor Carl Decaluwe said.
Around 5,000 migrants are estimated to be based in a makeshift camp, known as the Jungle, just outside the port city of Calais, most looking for a way across the English Channel to Britain. The Belgian port of Zeebrugge has regular ferry service to Britain.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters on Thursday that the operation to dismantle the Calais camp was imminent.
Decaluwe said there were no indications so far of a surge of migrants coming from Calais to Belgium.
“We hear some have gone to Paris or to the south. So far there is no increasing pressure,” Decaluwe said.
The flow of migrants has led to frictions between the two neighbouring countries, already at odds over security policy after militant attacks in Paris and Brussels.
In September, two Belgian policemen drove a group of illegal migrants into France and released them, drawing vigorous protests from the French government.
Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek, additional reporting by Pierre Savary in Villeneuve d'Ascq; editing by Philip Blenkinsop, Larry King